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Is it necessary to purchase a portable generator? If so, which would be the best? I heard Hondas are pretty good
 

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A generator is only necessary if you need a source of electrical power greater than batteries or solar power can provide. If you have, for example, two deep cycle batteries and an engine with an alternator, and you're only going to be away from shore power for a couple days, you can manage without one, even if you have refrigeration. The key question is, how much power do you need, and where else might you get it?

Most sailors find alternatives to an auxiliary generator. They're noisy, especially if you run them at night, they're gas hogs, and there are usually better alternatives.
 

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I've lived on my boat for almost 2 years without a generator, so it's definitely not required.

What do you use power for on your boat? Sailing at night, lots of electronics, music, fridge, ???
 

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I would not leave port without my trusty Honda 2000 on board. But, my needs are different from those with engines with charging alternators. I converted to electric propulsion eight years ago and no longer have a diesel engine or alternator. I use the Honda for occasional charging of my EP batteries and also for motor sailing on the occasional windless days.

That said I use the Honda for so much more. I carry 120 volt tools that can be powered by the Honda. Including things like a wet/dry vac that makes cleaning the bilge a snap. Also helps with other boat projects. I also use it to power a Dive compressor so that I can easily clean the boats bottom no matter where I am anchored. IMO at 48 lbs it is cheap insurance that you will never have to worry about battery bank not being able to start your engine. You can also easily carry it back on land should you or someone need it to get through a storm induced black out. After eight years the Honda 2000 is the only generator I would recommend. It is just a reliable workhorse IMO.
 

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Why do you think you need a portable generator? For most of us, a decent battery bank plus maybe an inverter does the job.
 

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I've cruised & sailed for well over 40 years and never once needed a generator of any kind. Alternative energy (solar), direct 12V DC devices, a good alternator, a properly sized battery bank and LED lightning have aided us in avoiding a generator...
 

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With better alternative energy producers available, and more energy efficient technology, today is a good opportunity to go the other way - both on shore and on the water.

In our home, with more efficient appliances - vast reductions in power requirements for lighting, we're using less power all the time. And that reduction has taken place even while adding an air source heat pump(to supplement wood pellet heat) to our demands.

Boats are using lower power dependent devices like tablets for some tasks. Refrigeration has become more efficient, lighting has sliced amp hours needed.

Today there is an opportunity to add strategic conservation steps to this more efficient technology - cut onboard energy requirements and enjoy more freedom to sail more miles.

Sailboats can enjoy an even higher quality of life on the water today free(er) of fossil fuel power generation.
 

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Maine-you live in Maine. I think you mostly cruise N.E. Think that has impact on your (quite educated) choices.

F- Maine knows more then anyone here about boat wiring/batteries/circuits. Strongly advise doing an energy audit before deciding. Look at Maines writings first. Strongly advise be honest with yourself about present and future boat use. Then decide.

Would note:
1. Hate any above deck generators. You will lose friends in any anchorage you will visit. If you decide to get one please, please, please don't run it before 9a or after 6p. ( between 9-6 you should be sailing anyway)
2. They run on gas. Another hazard. Another thing to feed. Another fire hazard. Spills are dangerous and not good for gelcoat.
3. They are meant to run on land. A hassle on a boat in salt. Another tank of gas. Another thing to maintain.
4. Problematic to run underway. Problematic to store below deck and not good for them to always live above deck. Box shaped things are hard to store as are any "this side up" things.

General thoughts- if you really,really need a genset go below deck diesel. Safer, more efficient, quieter from outside the boat, more reliable.
We lived 1 1/2y on our current boat. Have high rev 2cyclinder diesel genset. It's a lombardini which I don't recommend. When it dies will replace with low rev unit.

It went on:
During passage to top up batteries after prolonged AP,instrument, frig/freezer, a few hours of AC use due to overcast and very high,hot humid days. Otherwise it goes on once a month to make sure it works. I hate it as well but given our energy budget saw there would be rare times our high output alternator and alternatives wouldn't kept up with critical functions (cold beer, and the AP :)).
Our current budget allows music, rare hour of flatscreen for movies, rare hour of AC to dry boat, but all dedicated boat functions (instruments, AP, radar, frig/freezer) on alt. energy with left over for the spectra Cape Horn extreme dc watermaker on sunny, windy days. Hence, very, very rare times genset really needs to be run.
So for 99.9% of people there's no need for a genset. The others are much better served by a below deck diesel unit as their usage is so high portable ones won't cut it. Alt. energy costs are such that you can do panels/hydro or wind and after a few years its about a wash. And life is so much more pleasant without an engine running. Isn't that why we sail in the first place.


P.S.- if you do do alt. think about where you are and are going to be. Our D400s are weak sisters in N.E. Unless near/offshore in 10-20 don't do much up there. Think it's the long summer days. Surprisingly the panels don't match up to the D400s when down in the eastern Caribbean. Get 1 1/2 to 2x more out of the wind then solar. Think it's the nearly 24/7 fresh breeze down there and shorter day due to winter. Anytime you have fresh water wash your panels. Makes a real difference. Had Sahara winds with fine dust. Output dropped.
 

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OUTBOUND Quote :
1. Hate any above deck generators. You will lose friends in any anchorage you will visit. If you decide to get one please, please, please don't run it before 9a or after 6p. ( between 9-6 you should be sailing anyway)

Not true. The Honda's are quiet. I can hear diesel generators run as much as the Honda's.

2. They run on gas. Another hazard. Another thing to feed. Another fire hazard. Spills are dangerous and not good for gelcoat.

Than I guess you don't have a dinghy engine and the carry the gas cans for that.

3. They are meant to run on land. A hassle on a boat in salt.
Another tank of gas. Another thing to maintain.

True on land, no hassle mine is 7 years old and still running strong. Only maintenance is change the oil once every 100 hours.

4. Problematic to run underway. Problematic to store below deck and not good for them to always live above deck. Box shaped things are hard to store as are any "this side up" things.


Could live in the same space your planned diesel generator . Most carry on deck, secured. Easy on a CC boat. Mine lives in a special box I built.

5. General thoughts- if you really,really need a genset go below deck diesel. Safer, more efficient, quieter from outside the boat, more reliable.


More reliable.. I guess you never owned a Panda Fisher. Pieces of junk. Won't even make a good anchor. I would say the #1 maintenance item for cruisers is the inboard generator par none. You even said the one you have is bad, loud and won't replace it with the same model..

End of Quotes

Generators are like boat types; it is personnel. It is how you use your boat, how your boat is set-up, how much money you have to put one and in and maintain it and where you cruise.

We like our Honda. Great for charging batteries when the solar cannot, when we need relief from the heat to put one AC on and run the odd 120 volt equipment. My Honda cost me $800 back on 2008. One can be had for about $1200 now. Inboard diesel generators cost upwards of $10,000-20,000 to put one in. Do the math.
 

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If you decide that you need the extra power...I also recommend the 2000 Honda....
 

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Is it necessary to purchase a portable generator? If so, which would be the best? I heard Hondas are pretty good
No it isn't necessary. The Honda and Yamaha are the best. Don't get one till you have spent time on the boat and know the answer as to whether it is worth getting one for you.
 

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Maine-you live in Maine. I think you mostly cruise N.E. Think that has impact on your (quite educated) choices.
Ah yes where we get even less solar hours and where most boats reside only on moorings.....:wink

I also design and install energy management systems for a living, and do so for world cruisers as well as coastal customers. Many of them, whom I do work for, do not choose to have gensets either in-board or portable and they don't need them. The do just fine with a well designed system even without a generator. I also have a number of customers who leave the fridge running 24/7 on the mooring. While they do have LVD's installed it is pretty rare that they actually trip off at 12.1V / low voltage.
 

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We like our Honda. Great for charging batteries when the solar cannot, when we need relief from the heat to put one AC on and run the odd 120 volt equipment. My Honda cost me $800 back on 2008. One can be had for about $1200 now. Inboard diesel generators cost upwards of $10,000-20,000 to put one in. Do the math.
If I had to respond to Outbound's post it would have been exactly the same as yours.

That said, I don't have a Honda gen but have friends that do and it is a good solution for emergency power as well as (as others have said) being great for running power tools aboard.

I went to great lengths "developing" a Fischer Panda gen set to drive two 12v alternators instead of the proprietary alternator. It worked really well on all the tests I did in the workshop. But I abandoned it recently because it was so heavy and had a huge space requirement. Could easily fit two Hondas into the same space and combined they would still be half the weight.

And my mate's Honda makes no more noise than did the FP.

But in the final analysis I agree with other posts, we have found ways to be energy-independent without the need for a gen set. We stripped our shore-power installation out five years ago and use a Xantrex inverter to run the small mains requirement we still have.
 
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I'm seriously considering this one from Harbor Freight, which has lots of rave reviews. The price is right, only 10 pounds heavier than the Honda, half the price, very quiet at 63 db. Inverter Generator - 4.7HP, 2500W Inverter Generator

Now, I have bad lungs from asbestos exposure when I was a kid in the Navy. When the humidity is very high and and the nighttime temperatures are above 80, I find it difficult to sleep because of the difficulty in breathing. That's why I have a heat pump on the boat, but there is a lot of time that I'm not tied to the dock, so the genset will solve this problem. Additionally, I spend most of my time on the water during the week when I have those secluded anchorages to myself. More often than not, there are no other boats within miles of me, so that 63 db engine sound will not be bothering anyone other than myself. Inside the cabin, 63 db is barely noticeable.

A couple years ago, when I sailed down the ICW in October, it was one of the coldest on record. That heat pump would have been a God send to me if I had a genset back then.

As for charging the batteries, no worries - my 100-watt solar panel does a great job of keeping the 4 T-105s topped off, even on cloudy days. However, the genset would be a nice backup, if needed.

The only thing I will have to do is construct a platform on the transom to hold the genset and keep the exhaust fumes out of the cockpit and cabin. That's not a problem. In fact, I may construct a platform that has a cover so the genset can stay in place all the time, and it will also be out of the weather.

All the best,

Gary :cool:
 

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I'll add carbon monoxide as very real hazard to contend with as well. But if you're not in marina may be only reasonable way to run power tools.

I have a US Government inter-agency document, consisting of cooperation between the USCG, National Park Service, National Institute for Occupational Safety & Heath, US Department of the Interior & multiple State agencies, covering boat related CO poisonings. The document runs 45 pages, is absolutely ALARMING. It includes far too many deaths of both children and adults due to gas generator use..

I put the use of these small portable generators, on boats, in the potential for DEATH, category. It's kind of like the guy who has not YET been caught or caused an accident drunk driving.

The real scary thing is the small percentage of boats operating these generators that don't have any CO detector or are using a land based unit and not a marine unit. I can literally count on one hand the number of boats that have Honda's stuffed into a lazarette that actually have a UL Marine Xintex or a Safe-T-Alert CO detector that have been tested to UL Marine standards.

EDITED: To remove potential dual-meaning wording that could be taken the wrong way.
 

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That is sort of unfair Mainesail to indicate this is one for the Darwin Awards.... far more ridiculous things people do on boats that FAR exceeds the use of a simple Honda generator.

Responsible use of the generator is of course paramount and I as a user of a Honda generator know the use and the hazards.

I would not venture out for more than two days on our boat without the Honda in it's trusty location not only for emergency use but also for pleasure use while off the boat on some remote beach location for electrical needs whatever they may be.

Having the use of the small generator regardless of the make is a personal choice and not one for others to attack or ridicule. I've had mine for over two years and have yet to use it on the boat but have taken it for use camping or during blackouts in our neighborhood.
 

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Will agree every once in awhile nice to run the AC. But otherwise agree with everything Maine says. Respect his verdict as usual.

So it's hot, drizzly and humid with no wind ok to run the Honda outside. Will it keep up with the tv, AC and other toys you use on those dreary days.
So it's nowhere near time to take the AP offline but there's spray, some green water and its rolly poly. Ok to run the Honda on deck.
I don't know if it's safe to run them below deck without considerable planning and I don't know if they are safe to run underway.
Accept I maybe wrong on this one but still think a dedicated diesel unit is safer and more practical.
Back to sanding 2000e. Breaks over.
 

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It depends on your charging vs power draw differential after considering alternatives.

On our boat with electric refrigeration, soon to be installed 12V watermaker and lots of electrical gadgets and limited space for extensive solar panels and where we avoid using the motor as much as possible we run a Honda 1000 genset to a 50 amp charger for four hours every 3 or 4 days or so to keep the batteries topped up. We rarely use any AC powered equipment so the genset is essentially for charging purposes only. And. if you really do need one, buy the Honda or Yamaha. Most cheap copies are unreliable and NOISY. Noise levels double with every 3 dB increase, so keep that in mind when comparing specs. Our little Honda cannot be heard more than 10 metres from the boat in a breeze and we only ever run it between mid morning and mid afternoon.

As for Darwining oneself off using a portable genset on a boat I'd have to say that if one was that stupid, they'd most likely have Darwin'd themselves off long before being in a position to buy and own a boat in the first place. Not saying it doesn't happen, but I'd guess no more so than people blowing themselves up with gas appliances on board. It doesn't need much common sense to place the generator in a location that eliminates CO poisoning risk to the boat's occupants. If you're planning to run your genset overnight, however, do not run a portable unit.
 

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I don't think it makes a bit of difference whether the exhaust gasses are created by diesel or gasoline - both are just as deadly. Explosive - only if you do something really stupid, like refueling while it's running. Same as refueling an alcohol stove canister right after you put it out - BOOM!

From my point of view, the Darwin award should go to folks that climb to the top of their mast - I wonder how many people have been killed or injured doing that? I suspect it's a fairly long list as well.

I continually read posts about the danger of a gasoline engine on a sailboat, which drives me nuts. There are thousands upon thousands of gasoline powered sailboats in this country, and in more than 60 years of being on the water, I've never seen one blow up or catch on fire. However, I have witnessed three diesel powered boat fires. All but one burned to the water line. A few months ago, on the TV series Deadliest Catch, one of the crab boats had an injector line blow. The entire engine compartment filled with diesel fumes that were so dense, you could barely see more than 10 feet in the lighted compartment. The engineer, was afraid to press the mic key on the intercom, claiming the tiniest spark could have blown the boat to smithereens. He had to wear a SCUBA rig to work on the problem because the gasses were so deadly. They eventually were able to evacuate the diesel fumes using a huge fan that did not have brushes on the fan motor.

I have had an explosive gas detector on my boat since the day I purchased it. It detects all explosive gasses, including the gasses emitted from charging the boat batteries. It works very, very well, and I tested it using a propane cigarette lighter held about 4 feet away and just pressed the trigger enough so the gas would escape, but not ignite. I held it for about 5 seconds and the alarm went nuts. I had to put a switch in the system so I could turn it off when charging the batteries with the onboard charger - the damned thing would fire off in the middle of the night and wake everyone in the adjacent condos.

I just looked at the study Mainsail talked about, and apparently, the vast majority of those deaths occurred when people fired up gasoline generators in their garages, basements and homes during power outages. Here is an exert from that study: ASHRAE Journal, Sept, 2014, Vol.56(9), p.92(4) [Peer Reviewed Journal]
Description: Concerns exist about the hazard of acute residential carbon monoxide (CO) exposures from portable gasoline-powered generators, which can result in death or serious adverse health effects. As of April 23, 2013 and as shown in Figure 1, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) databases contain records of at least 800 deaths (involving 597 incidents) from CO poisoning caused by consumer use of a generator in the period of 1999 through 2012. (1) Typically, these deaths occur when consumers use a generator in an enclosed or partially enclosed space or, less often, outdoors near a partially open door, window or vent. While avoiding the operation of such generators in or near a home would reduce indoor CO exposures significantly, it may not be realistic to expect such usage to be eliminated completely.

All the best,

Gary :cool:
 
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